- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

ZAGREB, Croatia The Balkans war crimes tribunal is examining whether charges are warranted against former President Clinton and his aides for supporting a 1995 military offensive by Croatia that recaptured territory then held by rebel Serbian forces.
The Croatian World Congress sent a letter last week demanding that Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), open a criminal investigation into Mr. Clinton and other top officials of his administration for "aiding and abetting indicted Croatian Gen. Ante Gotovina in a 1995 Croatian military operation known as 'Operation Storm.'"
When asked if the prosecutor's office plans to indict Mr. Clinton and U.S. officials, Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for Mrs. Del Ponte, said: "We are working on the basis of an ongoing investigation."
Besides Mr. Clinton, others named in the complaint are former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, former Deputy National Security Adviser Samuel Berger, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith.
Fears that American officials and soldiers will be prosecuted for participating in U.N.-backed peacekeeping efforts lie behind the Bush administration's threat to scuttle the present U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
The threat is part of a dispute involving a separate but similar U.N. tribunal, the International Criminal Court, which was modeled after the ICTY and opened its doors last week. Both courts are based in The Hague.
The Balkans court angered U.S. officials two years ago when it acknowledged it was looking into a similar complaint against NATO commanders for their role in the 1999 U.S.-led bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.
Court officials said at the time they felt obliged to look into all complaints placed before them, but they dropped the matter after a preliminary investigation.
Gen. Gotovina was indicted by the ICTY in June 2001 on charges that he exercised "command responsibility" over a military campaign in which 150 Serbian civilians were killed.
Secretly supported by the Clinton administration, Croatian forces launched a massive three-day military offensive known as "Operation Storm" on Aug. 4, 1995, in which Croatia recovered territories occupied by rebel Serbs following Zagreb's drive for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
The Croatian World Congress, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that advises the United Nations, said it believes neither Gen. Gotovina nor Clinton administration officials are guilty of war crimes.
However, it said that if Mrs. Del Ponte insists on prosecuting Gen. Gotovina, then American officials should be prosecuted in the interests of "evenhanded justice" because they played a pivotal role in aiding the general's campaign in Operation Storm.
The Croatian World Congress said the U.S. administration gave the green light for the operation and provided diplomatic and political support for it.
But the NGO stressed that "the most just outcome would be to withdraw the indictment against Gen. Gotovina."
The possibility that the Gotovina case will lead to U.S. officials being indicted by the ICTY worries some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House Committee on International Relations, said in a May 29 letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that at committee hearings on the ICTY, "Testimony was presented at our hearing questioning the factual basis for this indictment.
"It was brought to our attention that the ICTY may investigate U.S. officials for potential command responsibility in connection with Operation Storm."
Mr. Hyde said the ongoing investigation in the Gotovina case poses "risks" that U.S. officials would be prosecuted by the "U.N. tribunal for formulating or carrying out U.S. government policy."
Gen. Gotovina, 48, was the military commander of Sector South of the operation that was responsible for the capture of the city Knin.
He is also accused by the prosecutor's office at The Hague of overseeing the ethnic cleansing of 150,000 Serbs in Croatia who fled the military assault. He is currently in hiding, his whereabouts unknown.
The United States provided military and technical assistance to Operation Storm in order to deliver a defeat to then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's goal of forging an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia."

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